More on the importing of birds and plants and laborers, 1865.

Planters’ Society.

A general meeting of the Society was held at the Court House on Saturday last, April 1st, 1865, pursuant to a call published by his Ex. R. C. Wyllie.

Mr. Montgomery was called to the Chair, and stated that the objects of the meeting were, first, to consider the amalgamation of the Planters’ Society with the Royal Hawaiian Agricultural Society.

Hon. G. M. Robertson, appointed at a former meeting to report on the proposed step, stated that the simplest way for attaining the object was for the members of the Planters’ Society to unite individually with the R. H. A. Society.

On motion of his Ex. R. C. Wyllie, seconded by Dr. Hillebrand, the report was accepted.

The following resolution, moved by Mr. Wyllie, was then passed:

Resolved, That the report of the Special Committee on the amalgamation of the Royal Hawaiian Agricultural Society and of the Planters’ Society, be adopted; and that the two Societies are declared as fused and combined from this date, into one body, under the style of the Royal Hawaiian Agricultural Society.

A motion was made by Mr. R. C. Wyllie to appropriate some funds for the purpose of enabling Dr. William Hillebrand, Royal Commissioner for Immigration, to select and import seeds, shrubs, plants and animals suitable to the climate and soil of this kingdom, and which he might procure during his contemplated mission in China and the East Indies.

Dr. Wm. Hillebrand said, that this was a subject in which he felt the utmost interest, and to which he had given, and would continue to give, his most earnest attention. He had already communicated with several parties in China and the East Indies about it, and, in addition to that, he was provided with letters from the Minister of Foreign Affairs to parties whose assistance would greatly help him in that undertaking.

Mr. H. A. Carter said, that he was much pleased with the proposition, and trusted that the highest sum compatible with the resources of the Society would be so appropriated, as, from the Doctor’s well known interest in such subjects, and his knowledge of our climate, the best results might be expected.

Mr. C. de Varigny stated that this motion was a wise and proper one. The appropriation made by the Legislature was $5,000 for the encouragement of Agriculture and Immigration. The Government was, for the present, obliged to devote the greater part of that amount to the importation of laborers, but this was merely an advance to be received in the course of time, and he had no doubt that as soon as possible the Government would liberally and heartily cooperate with the R. H. A. Society, and after having used the funds at its disposal for the most urgent want of agriculture, apply the money, when recovered, in a manner consistent with the intention of the Legislature.

On the motion of Mr. Wyllie, seconded by Mr. H. A. Carter, it was

Resolved,  That Dr. William Hillebrand, Royal Commissioner of Immigration, is authorized to expend the sum of $500 in the collection and importation into this Kingdom of seeds, shrubs, plants and animals, suited to its climate and soil, whereby the interests of all persons engaged in Agriculture, and of the Kingdom generally, may be greatly promoted.

Dr. Hillebrand spoke as follows:

Mr. Chairman:—As I have taken the liberty, in conjunction with the distinguished gentleman who just addressed you, to call this meeting, I beg leave to explain in a few words the objects aimed at and embodied in the resolution which has just now been submitted to you for consideration. During the many years that your Society has honored me with the office of Corresponding Secretary, the idea has been growing in me that the agricultural resources of our archipelago might be vastly increased and varied by drawing upon the vegetable treasures of, and studying their cultivation in, these countries which I am to visit shortly by appointment of our Government—countries so remarkably favored by nature, and in which many to us new branches of agriculture have been successfully practiced for ages past. I will instance only a few of the many useful plants and animals which we might import from there to great advantage. From China wee would have the tea plant, the camphor tree, various fine varieties of oranges, not domesticated here yet. From Singapore and Java, the incomparable magosteen and duriang [durian], and those celebrated spice trees, the nutmeg and clove. I do not attach great weight to the prevalent opinion that those trees will not do well out of the Straits of Malacca. While admitting that they would not thrive in all parts of our Islands, I feel sure that we can select for them localities in which they will feel at home. The various kinds of pepper have never found their way to our shores. The teak tree has become an object of cultivation with the East India Government, and might easily be made to supply its valuable timber from our soil. So also the gutta percha and the many valuable varnish trees of those regions. From Ceylon we may draw the cinnamon tree, the ebony, satinwood, jack-tree, bilimbi, and many others. The mango and those countries is far superior to ours. Amongst many useful plants, cultivatable on a large scale, I will particularize the jute, the fibre of which has become of such vast commercial importance of late years, the hemp banana of the Philippines, and the uncaria gambir, a plant which yields the best tanning principle known. Finally, I will only mention those many magnificent palms of the East Indies, whose component parts administer to the wants of man in such a variety of ways that it would be impossible to enter into details. To speak of the many oriental plants of those countries which might be made to embellish your own homes, would be quite supererogatory.

Of animals which could easily be introduced from those countries, first in order stand the various kinds of game deer which abound there in a climate similar to ours. Our former attempts in that line have been futile, in part on account of the incongruous climate from which we received the animals. It might well be doubted if animals roaming in a wild state, under the 38th degree of latitude, in cold sierras, could be successfully reared here. The small speckled deer of the Philippine Islands was introduced by the Spaniards a hundred years ago into the Ladrone Islands, where it has multiplied and flourished ever since. This, or its cogenors from other East India Islands, is the game for us. Our streams are almost barren of fish. The rivers of China team with a variety of them, many very fine flavored and rich. Besides, the Chinese are very expert in the art of transporting fish alive over great distances. The gold and silver pheasants of China would be a desirable addition to the poultry roaming over our canefields. And as to insectivorous and singing-birds we could never have too many. To the introduction of the cochineal insect I have in former years repeatedly drawn your attention. Well, what we have hitherto failed to obtain from its native country, Central America, we can have from Java, where its cultivation has been an established fact for many years, under the fostering care of an intelligent Government. The cultivation of the silk-worm was tried here, many years ago, by some highly meritorious gentlemen, whom we rejoice to see still among us. There is no reason why the attempt should not be renewed. I wish to remark here, that of late years several new silkworms have been discovered in Cochin China and Java, in which latter country both are cultivated now, and whose product in many respects promises to become even more valuable than that of the Chinese insect. The leeches of those countries are as valuable for medicinal purposes as those of Hungary, and no doubt will propagate readily in our pounds, which the latter hitherto have refused to do.

The cultivation of the coffee plant, which until the year 1857 made such rapid strides of progress on these Islands, was suddenly arrested and nearly brought to ruin by the inroad of a plague, under which it still continues to languish. On the Island of Ceylon the coffee plant has passed through the same ordeal and has overcome it. After four years duration of the disease, the production of coffee on that Island commenced again to increase in rapid progression. Would it not in all probability be turned to profitable account, if a man who has watched the beginning and progress of the blight on these Islands, could study and investigate the disease of the same plant in Ceylon, and if the cause of its natural arrest there should be found, might it not artificially be found here? If, for instance, insects feeding on the plaguey vermin be the cause, could they not be transmitted hither?

With regard to the materials for making sugar we are well enough off. We have very valuable varieties of the cane. Still I believe it might be of use to import some of the very prolific varieties—from Malacca for instance. But with regard to the method of growing cane and system of manufacturing sugar, we might perhaps learn something from other countries. The mountainous island of Mauritius, not larger than our whole group. Many questions will arise here. How can they make the cane grow profitably to such an extent on mountain slopes, as much be the case on such a limited area? To what height does it pay there to raise cane? Mind well, Mauritius lays under the same latitude South as our islands are North, and its soil is of the same lava and basalt of which our islands are made. The character of its vegetation, too, has much that is akin t ours. With no other sugar producing country would it be more instructive to us to draw a parallel. We know that by the application of guano manure the Mauritius planters have doubled and trebled their crops. Guano is a splendid fertilizer, but rather dangerous in the hands of the inexperienced farmer. It might be considered more useful to avail ourselves of the ready formed experience of other countries, than to go ourselves through the expensive school of experiments. There again the have, what we shall have, destructive enemies to the cane—borers and other insects.  What means do they resort to overcome them? We have been told that planters there take off their entire crops sometimes of a thousand and fifteen hundred tons, in three months. Here it takes most of you eight or nine months to finish a crop of five to six hundred tons. Why is this so? Is it simply superiority and extent of machinery, or is it better system? I am inclined to think it is the latter. One single fact alone established a vast difference in system between there and here, viz: that from the beginning to the end of the grinding season the boilers are not allowed to cool down, or in other words, that the work there is continuous. Most of your works consume an enormous amount of fuel, threatening destruction at a more or less remote period to all our mountain forests. Any information leading to a saving in fuel would be worth to you many thousands of dollars, and to our islands the inestimable boon of preservation of their forests. You have been told by strangers that you have made great progress in the cultivation of sugar and need not be ashamed of a comparison with other countries. Be it so; but I dare say there is no one amongst you who is not aware that there is a vast deal of room left for improvement. Written information and instruction from outsiders must necessarily fall short in value of that which can be obtained by one of you, who knows the circumstances, the advantages and difficulties under which you labor, and whose eye, in another country and among other systems, would therefore immediately be struck by the differences between their circumstances, systems, results, etc., and your own, and it is from the differences that the valuable lessons are to be drawn.

Having arrived at the end of my suggestions, I find that I have omitted one kind of trees, the acquisition of which I consider of the utmost importance. I mean the cinchonas or Peruvian bark trees. The most precious and universally used drug, quinine, is derived from them, but the imminent destruction of those noble trees in their native forests of the Cordilleras of Peru and Bolivia, is filling with dismay that portion of the scientific world whose duty it is to administer to the relief of suffering humanity. The price of the article is rising from year to year. To avoid the impending calamity, the Governments of two of the most enlightened nations, Holland and England, took active measures, some ten or twelve years ago, to introduce the trees into their East Indian colonies, which efforts have now been crowned by the most complete success. My own individual, unaided, efforts to introduce the trees amongst us, have hitherto been fruitless. Seeds once received from Peru did not germinate. Applications for plants at the Royal Gardens of Kew could not be complied with, because most of the plants there had died off and the remaining ones were in such a sickly condition that hey could not be presumed to stand the long voyage. But I hold now in my hands a letter from that distinguished and most liberal botanist, Sir William Hooker, Director of the Botanical Garden, Kew, under whose direction the management of the cinchona plantations was chiefly placed, by virtue of which I can draw a supply of good trees from the Botanical Garden of Peradnia [Botanical Garden of Peradeniya], under the care of Dr. Thwaites. The importance of the introduction of these trees in such a locality and climate as that of Kona in Hawaii, can hardly be overestimated.

On motion from Mr. A. J. Cartwright, seconded by Mr. H. A. Carter, it was

Resolved, That Mr. A. J. Cartwright, Treasurer of the R. H. A. Society, be authorized to pay over to Dr. Wm. Hillebrand the sum of $500, appropriated by the above resolution, and that the sum of $60 from annual subscriptions be paid to the Curator, in lieu of the interest of $60 on $500, withdrawn from the funds invested.

His Ex. R. C. Wyllie moved the following resolution:

Resolved, That under the third Ordinance issued by the Bureau of Immigration, and signed by the King on the 17th of February, and under the notice of the 7th March signed by the Secretary of the Bureau, it is expedient that the planters and other, who may not have sent a statement of the number of laborers that they are willing to take on the condition offered in said Ordinances, should send in such statement immediately to the Honorable Dr. Hillebrand, whom His Majesty has commissioned as His Commissioner of Immigration.

Mr. Wyllie, in support of his motion, said that the Bureau of Immigration was, in his opinion, entitled to an active co-operation from the planters and others interested in agriculture; that such was the view he had adopted from the beginning, and that, as soon as the ordinances and the notice to planters had been issued, he had at once acted upon the same, made application for 200 coolies, and lent to the Commissioner all the assistance in his power.

Mr. J. Wood resumed, and said that he would move that the departure of the Commissioner be postponed, so as to allow planters to have full explanation given to them as to the intention of the Bureau, and the instruction given to the Commissioner.

Dr. Hillebrand said, that as Commissioner of Immigration he would explain his intention, and proceeded as follows:

Some of the objections and doubts just now expressed will be removed, I think, by explaining the modus operandi which I propose to follow for obtaining laborers. Soon after my arrival in Hongkong I shall employ suitable agents for conducting the business, but it will be an indispensable condition that the men be procured from the agricultural country of the interior. The tea districts of Fokien have been recommended by every one who has knowledge of the country, as the most likely to yield a good supply of steady and industrious farmers. I intend myself to accompany the agent employed to those districts, in order to see that none but a good class of people be selected If possible, I shall try to select in preference men with families. At least one third or one fourth of the number should answer to this description. As soon as from three to five hundred are procured, a vessel will be chartered, sent to Amoy or Fuhchow to take the coolies on board, and to start with them without delay for Honolulu. It is calculated that five hundred will satisfy the immediate wants of the planters, and that the ship may arrive here about seven months after my departure. Before leaving Hongkong, I shall give instructions to the mercantile house transacting our business, in case that before my return new advices arrive from here, desiring a second dispatch of coolies immediately, that such be procured in the same manner as were the first lot, and forwarded forthwith. As soon as the first installment has been sent on its way, I propose to start for Madras and Calcutta, to see if from those parts—that is, from the Neilgherry, or the foot-hills of the Himalayas—a better class of people can be obtained from China, and if so, to make arrangements with mercantile houses in those places, initiatory to a regular immigration to these Islands.

Mr. H. A. Carter said that the Board of Immigration of course could not expect to please all parties on general principles; he was opposed to Governmental influence in what properly belonged to private enterprise, which he believed would in time have met the labor requirements; still, the admirable choice the Board had made in their Agent or Commissioner gave this enterprise a guarantee of success. He could not join inn any laudation of the ordinances, especially that of No. 1. He regretted that Government had taken occasion to prohibit private enterprise from moving in this matter—thought the planter should have the right to import such labor as he thought best, provided, of course, he did not import paupers or dangerous people. With reference to information in regard to the designs of the Government, he would say that in asking such information, it had always been given him with the utmost courtesy, and he had thus been enabled to communicate the same to the correspondents of his house interested in it.

His Ex. C. de Varigny said that the first ordinance alluded to had been misunderstood by some, and by others voluntarily misconstrued. Articles had been published with the view of impressing the planters with the idea that the Bureau of Immigration could not and would not do anything, and intended merely to blind the public with a feeble attempt at the discharge of their duties. The labors of the Bureau had been arduous and unremitting, and within two months of the organization of the Bureau all questions, even of detail, had been settled; a Commissioner duly accredited, well selected and provided with sufficient funds, was on the eve of his departure, and arrangements had been entered into ascertain the practicability of starting an immigration from Polynesia as well as from the Cape de Verd Islands. Facts would speak for themselves, but the animadversions to which he alluded were as unfair as they were detrimental to the interests of the country.

Referring to the Ordinance No. 1, of the Privy Council, the Minister of Finance stated that the principle asserted in the same was nothing new. It asserted a right, nay, even more, a duty inherent to every Government, that of controlling and superintending the introduction of a large class immigrants, notoriously destitute, and relying upon immediate employment. Would anybody deny that, even without such an ordinance the Government through the Board of Health, or the Minister of the Interior had the right to prevent the landing on these shores of immigrants, sick or destitute. Could anybody deny that the same Government had the right to refuse admission to immigrants, whose morality and physical condition would be such as to physically and  morality affect the people? That right had always existed, and the first ordinance did merely reassert it and delegate it to the Board in whose charge the Legislature had placed the control of immigrants.

The ordinance does not prevent parties from importing laborers, but prevents them from so doing without the express sanction of the Bureau. It means that if a vessel loaded with coolies or others comes in Honolulu, it is made the duty of the Bureau to ascertain the physical condition of the coolies or other on board, to ascertain that they have not been kidnapped or shipped under false pretenses, that they are not the scum of the prisons of the country they come from, or pirates seeking amongst us to evade the punishment they richly deserved elsewhere. Previous experiments here and elsewhere fully justified such steps, and in view of our peculiar circumstances he had no doubt in his mind that this was just and wise.

A great deal had been said about leaving this matter to private enterprise. It had been so left for ten years and more, and private enterprise had done nothing. He was glad of it. The question was of such an importance and so intimately connected with the future prosperity, the very life of the people, it was so complicated that he would not for a moment recede from his proposition that the Government itself was the proper party to start it. A single false step at the beginning might lead to incalculable consequences. Every one knows how difficult it is in China to procure, even amongst the lowest classes, laborers for the Chincha Islandds. Suppose private parties go to China and contract for laborers for the Hawaiian Islands, to cultivate sugar; the proper representation will be made, the climate is mild, the work easy, the food and treatment are liberal and fair, etc., etc. Laborers are shipped, the vessel arrives at Honolulu, the contracts are offered to be transferred. Will any one assert that speculators will take $80, $90 or $100, when at thirty days sail the labor of the same men commands $150, and even more? No; after a short negotiation the vessel would sail for Callao. If, after such a result, not unlikely, probable, even the Government or others make a serious attempt to a serious immigration, they will be met in China by the undeniable assertion that laborers have been deceived once; that the name of the Sandwich Islands has been used as a bling; and it will take years to redeem a good name that ought not to have been compromised at the start.

His Honor, Judge Robertson, stated that he fully agreed with the views of his colleague in the Board, that the member of said Board had diligently enquired for all information, and had even requested his Majesty to call a meeting of the Privy Council, to lay before it their views and their arguments; that the intention of the Board had been duly made known in the three ordinances published on the 18th of February, and could not leave doubt in the mind of any one as to the object contemplated; viz., to import a cargo of Chinese coolies first, and then to instruct the Royal Commissioner to visit China and the East Indies, with the view of ascertaining whence the class of immigrants best calculated to satisfy the demand for labor and to amalgamate with our people, could be procured.

The Judge said it was highly gratifying to learn the statement of M. de Varigny, that under the vote of the Legislature the Government felt itself authorized to apply a part of the money appropriated, to the encouragement of agriculture, whenever it could be spared from the urgent object of immigration; perhaps in six months from this time they would be in a position to do so. In the speaker’s opinion, the public had a right to expect that the Government would be ready, at any time, to give an equal sum with this Society, to aid any desirable object connected with agricultural improvements. This was doing no more than its duty.

The resolution moved by Mr. R. C. Wyllie was passed.

After the discussion on the question of Dr. Hillebrand visiting or not the Island of Mauritius, to enquire about improvements in machinery and ascertaining facts connected with the question of labor, which proposition was set aside, it was moved and

Resolved, That a full account of the proceedings of the meeting be published.

Adjourned sine die.

(PCA, 4/8/1865, p. 2)


The Pacific Commercial Advertiser, Volume IX, Number 40, Page 2. April 8, 1865.


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